Bruce Pearl: Basketball training facilities on hold, NIL needs to be a priority

Auburn’s new men’s basketball training facility at Neville Arena is apparently suspended for the time being, according to coach Bruce Pearl.

The Tigers’ head coach was asked the Monday before the match at the Bruce, Barkley and Basketball Golf Event in Opelika about any updates to the facility upgrade, which was approved by the Auburn Board of Trustees in February. Pearl said the project is being put on the back burner for now because Auburn needs to prioritize another aspect of its track and field program first: NIL.

“We have to take care of the NIL space first – in every sport,” Pearl said. “First, this should be one of our commitments and our goals… We have a few other things to take care of before we take care of the practice facilities.”

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The Neville Arena facility upgrade, which was unanimously approved on February 4, included a new fitness center built into the arena, as well as renovations to the team support space and women’s locker room area within the facility. There is already a gym in the arena, but it is a shared space between men’s and women’s basketball; the arena also hosts volleyball and gymnastics training and events, which sometimes makes scheduling the four programs difficult.

The planned project at Neville Arena is the latest upgrade to the venue, which opened in 2010 and previously received $3 million upgrades to the men’s and women’s locker rooms ahead of the 2019-20 season. The following year, the program also introduced a new scoreboard with an immersive LED video display. The latter project is expected to be financed by endowment and bond funds, with the bond debt service paid for by funds from the athletics department.

While Pearl has previously expressed excitement about a new gym, he knows it’s not the most important thing that needs to be done to sustain success not just for his show – which is coming off an SEC regular-season title – but in all of Auburn’s athletic teams, given the current NCAA landscape and the way business is being conducted nationally, and particularly in the relentless SEC.

“We win by sharing the practice facilities with the volleyball team and the women’s basketball team and the gym is there,” Pearl said. “That doesn’t transition to winning. Would I love a better teaching space? Would it be easier for our student-athletes, you know, not having to share time with everybody? We’re making it work. But when we do that, we’re going to do it right. When we do this, let’s do it, let’s do it right. But we have a few other things to take care of before we take care of the practice facility.”

Tom Green is an Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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